Songs and Score By: Stephen Dorff
Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The movie, Wheeler, is a faux documentary in which Stephen Dorff, as small town singer Wheeler Lynn Bryson, travels to Nashville in hopes of a country music recording deal. Wearing prosthetic make-up, Dorff infiltrates Music City with the help of key allies, conversing in character with real people in real locations. The songs and score were composed by Dorff and all of the songs are performed by Dorff as Wheeler Bryson.
Stephen Dorff’s father was an in-demand composer, songwriter and three-time Grammy nominee, so it’s fair to say that he was exposed to music at a young age. Even Stephen’s brother got in the act, writing hits for Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts. Though music was always a passion, Stephen decided to become an actor, performing in such notable films as Backbeat, Blade, Public Enemies and The Iceman.
According to Dorff, “Music was always around me growing up. My dad was a Beatles nut, and my mom wrote music as well. I remember going to Nashville with my dad when I was 8 or 9. And I’ve always loved film scores…At the end of the day, Wheeler is a tribute to my dad and my family, and to the great country songwriters.” Every song on the Wheeler Soundtrack is written and performed by Stephen Dorff except the last track, a Bonus Track called New Mister Me, which is written and performed by Kris Kristofferson.
I’ve seen Stephen Dorff in films and thought he was an okay actor, but never pictured him as much of a singer. So, I was surprised when I started listening to the Wheeler Soundtrack and found a pretty credible voice crooning country songs coming out of the speakers. The score of the film is twangy country fare, not very unusual or standout – just what you would expect from a western or a film about someone with country roots. The songs are perfect country, with lyrics about sad days and alcohol drowning the pain, newfound love and lost love and something in between. New Mister Me is sort of a gunslinger song – new guy comes around and wants to take out the older guy to become successful. Only problem is, old guy wins and decides new guy can have the title – old guy will just take on new guy’s identity. Couldn’t help but laugh at the picture this song made for me in my mind’s eye.
Overall, the Wheeler Soundtrack isn’t perfect, but I disagree with Variety’s pan of the songs. I didn’t think Stephen Dorff did all that bad a job. Some of the lyrics weren’t as sophisticated as they could be, but I’ve listened to a lot of country western music, from old to new, and his work is very similar in style. Not a bad listen for fans of the genre.